The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Fangs for the Memory – Chapter 11
11.59 pm, Sunday 2 November 1997
Under Grace's tending Jeffrey rapidly starts to regain his senses. At Kris's instigation, Marta prepares a snifter of brandy for him: Kris also seeks to ask for Dr Odorf's help, but on looking round she notices that both he and Gino have temporarily disappeared.
"Don't worry about me - I'm fine," declares Jeffrey. "That fainting fit and vision of the dark man was just a cunning ruse to get me into the castle and rescue Mr Lewis! Now Mr Lewis is safe, and we've got evil butt to kick!!!... pardon my French," he adds, embarrassed. "Just got a little carried away there..." He checks Brian's condition: he seems much the same as he was before being snatched, rather woozy.
The howling intensifies, and Grace looks around nervously. "Perhaps we should keep watches here tonight," she says. "When the castle folk find that Brian and Jeffrey have both gone, life may get a little interesting to say the least."
Jeffrey looks doubtful. "I think that staying here might be too dangerous. Perhaps we should hole up somewhere else overnight."
"We should try and take care of Krist as well," says Kris, "though I doubt he'd leave his mother."
"Her too then!" says Jeffrey.
"I don't think we can all fit in that shed I found," says Stuart, "and it'll be very cold."
"We mustn't let Tomas know where we've gone," adds Jeffrey sotto voce.
In the end Jeffrey's view prevails - he seems filled with a righteous fire, especially when he sees the state that Dr Odorf is now in (which is even worse than before). He hustles all the party, plus Odorf, Brian, Krist Snak and his mother, out into the night, clutching blankets, some protesting feebly.
The night seems to last an aeon in the cramped, chilly shed. Jeffrey leads the assembled company in a cheery sing-song, although this has to be rather muffled to prevent attracting attention. Various members of the party periodically peer through a gap in the planks to observe the guesthouse: sure enough, around an hour after they left, the vampires' limousine reappears in the driveway. Figures get out and enter the lobby: after (presumably) a conversation with Tomas they leave and start to cruise around the village.
Fortunately they do not discover the carefully-chosen hiding place.
The morning finds everyone stiff, aching and bitterly cold. Krist and his mother complain less than the SITU operatives: they are presumably hardier types. Kris in particular is in severe pain from her injury, which has seized up nastily.
"This is the day for action!" enthuses Jeffrey, although his expression darkens when he notices that the unfortunate Odorf is by now little more than a quivering shell.
Back at the Kolnari Masza - Tomas politely ignores the absence of last night - the party equip themselves. Stuart makes sure that everyone has garlic-water bottles, stakes and petrol. Ferdinand checks his crossbow and Grace her assegai.
Jeffrey has a quiet word with Krist's mother, who is sitting looking rather morose in the corner while her son phones round the reliable villagers. "You should be proud of him," he says, "now that he's taken the decision to take a stand against evil."
"What consolement will that be, in my old age?" she asks wearily. She seems resigned to the fact that he has taken his decision, though.
Krist arranges that the villagers are to meet at their tavern shortly before noon. He seems tremendously enthused.
"What about the ones who won't cooperate?' asks Kyle.
Krist merely smiles and makes a throat-slitting motion. Tomas, who is drying glasses in the bar while this is going on, whistling quietly to himself, looks rather pale.
Gino and Kyle, carrying a hacksaw they have liberated from the smithy, set off up to the castle while the others make their preparations in the village. The snow is still falling lightly, forming a nasty crust on the melted slush that was here before. Both men are very keyed-up and moving purposefully.
They approach the castle from the cover of the pine trees: it has its usual air of inactivity, bar the occasional servant scurrying about the inner yard. Glancing at each other, they sneak up to the foot of the southern tower and once more set pitons to rock.
The climb is a tricky one thanks to the rather unpleasant conditions, but Gino is learning something of the basics now and Kyle does not have to carry him quite as often as on previous ascents. When they reach the top, they find that fresh bars have been set across the window. Gino is wise to this, though, and carefully deploying his hacksaw starts to cut through them.
The third bar is just parting when he hears the clatter of feet from inside the laboratory, and sees two servants charging across the room towards the window, one carrying a shotgun. Gino puts the hacksaw between his teeth and pulls out his throwing knife.
Ferdinand calls up SITU again and relays to them everything that has so far transpired, at Stuart's insistence. The receptionist notes down what he says with little comment. Kris then takes the phone from him, and ushers everyone but herself and Grace out of the room.
"We need to know what this man Molnar has been up to in Heidelberg."
A new voice speaks. "Well, Agent Macdowell, we've just had a report in from the other team. They're investigating what appears to be a modern-day Frankenstein, assembling monsters out of body parts. Molnar seems to be one of the top aides involved, and they think he took some part in the surgery required."
"Interesting! What's their current situation?"
"They've relocated to a village called Badgastein, in the mountains south of the city. Apparently Molnar and his accomplices have fled to a castle there - owned by a Baron von Kleider-Wollenstein. Our team think this Baron is the kingpin of the whole affair. And there may be a tie-in between the chemicals you found and some materials they turned up - we've got our analysts working on that now." He sounds highly excited. "It looks like, between you, you may be giving us just what we've been looking for, Macdowell - well done!"
Jeffrey strides towards the church, divine fervour burning brightly within him. He flings open the door, and points an accusing finger at the priest, who starts and drops the chalice he was just offering to an equally surprised communicant. In a stern voice, Jeffrey says "Where I come from, Father, a priest is more than the man or woman who leads the hymns and delivers fine words at weddings, christenings and funerals. He's a symbol of hope, and light, and truth. He's a good shepherd, a man you can trust. Can your flock trust you, Father Lundekvam? Or did you throw in your lot with the wolves a long time ago?"
The worshippers, who include Hungis and Velmilla Szolt, turn interestedly towards this outburst, and Lundekvam flounders slightly. "Reverend Fanlight, I must ask you not to disturb this holy ceremony! I do not know what you mean..."
"Don't you?" accuses Jeffrey, walking down the aisle towards him. "I think you do, Father. Isn't it written 'A man cannot serve two masters'? Who do you serve, Father - the good Lord, or another?"
A shaft of sunlight, breaking through the clouds, passes through the big stained-glass of Saint Batrachius blessing the lepers, and colours pool before Lundekvam's feet. His usual look of smooth disdain is displaced by an expression of unbearable anguish, and he collapses sobbing to his knees, hunched over, one hand repetitively tracing the sign of the Cross. "I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned!" he cries to himself (in Latin).
Jeffrey's fierceness melts at the sight of such sincerity of repentance, and he puts his arm around the other priest, looking at the agog congregation. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone! I want all of you to examine your hearts, and to say honestly whether you yourselves are innocent of the same sin as this weak man - falling into temptation! I do not judge him, only One can do that, and He is all-forgiving provided repentance is genuine. But I say to all of you, you must put aside this false allegiance - the time of reckoning is come!"
Kris, Grace, Stuart and Ferdinand accompany Krist Snak to the tavern, that dingy, dark building on the other side of the bridge that they have walked past but never entered. It turns out to be rather pleasant inside: warm and cosy, if rather dark and full of the smell of wet dog.
There are around twenty villagers sitting about the bar, almost all men, several of them armed with pitchforks, although a couple have rather more practical items such as shotguns. Krist stands on a table and motions them all to silence. As soon as he has it, he launches into an impassioned speech, full of dramatic gestures.
The party are able to make little sense of it: at one point Krist says the word 'tulnagi', pointing at Kris, at which all the audience gasp and stare. At another stage he makes the universally-recognized sign for 'big pointy teeth'. In general the audience seem to be enthused: they cheer the end of each sentence, brandishing their pitchforks, and at the climax one of them fires his shotgun into the ceiling, bringing down a cloud of rotten plaster dust. From the state of the ceiling it looks as though it has suffered this indignity many times before.
"Did you ask them if anyone had a big van?" asks Stuart.
Krist adds another sentence in Hungarian.
Gino and Kyle prudently duck below the window as the servant flings it open, so neither of them is in the field of the first shot, which scatters harmlessly over their heads, setting crows to cawing in the nearby trees. Gino, aware that they are sitting ducks if they remain perched below the window, pops up quickly and hurls his knife at the servant with the gun. The man gives a startled squawk and clutches at his throat, blood urging its way between his fingers, and he drops the gun - the other picks it up as Gino vaults nimbly through the window. Gino kicks at the gun as it is fired, and receives a blast of shot up the side of his leg, but he knocks the gun out of the servant's hand, and Kyle rather clumsily drops onto the servant, pinning him, as Gino collapses to the ground in pain.
Kyle ties the surviving servant's hands tightly behind his back - the fellow makes little resistance - before turning his attention to Gino. The wounds are only superficial and it seems to Kyle as he binds them that Gino is making rather more of them than they deserve. Bundling live and dead servant into a cupboard underneath one of the lab benches, he urges his companion to his feet and out through the door.
Jeffrey and the assembled congregation, an abashed Reverend Lundekvam among them, meet up with the crowd emerging from the pub. "I must insist," says Jeffrey, "that none of the human occupants of the castle should be harmed, including the Baron. If we hurt them, we become as bad as the vampires themselves!"
There is a disgruntled muttering among the crowd at this sentiment. "How's that?" calls out one villager. "They're evil bloodsucking leeches who drain the vitality from honest men, while we are the righteous servants of the Lord!"
Jeffrey stares him down. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, remember? We must not take that vengeance into our own hands. If these people can be demonstrated to be guilty of crimes, then perhaps we can hand them over to the appropriate civil authorities."
"But the Baron is the appropriate civil authority," points out Krist.
"Well, never mind, we'll think of something. Anyway, anyone who harms any one of them will answer to me!"
Up in the castle Gino has just deployed the shotgun to good effect to blow away a servant who was all unwitting climbing the stairs towards him. There is only one more cartridge left, though.
They sneak their way along the concealed corridors to the vantage point overlooking the Baron's private chamber. Peering through the spyhole, they see that he is once more talking on his mobile phone in the unfamiliar language. He shakes the phone periodically, and keeps pointing it about as though trying to get a better signal.
Gino and Kyle count to three and then, using their combined weight, charge the panelling separating them from the Baron's room. With a splintering crash it gives way, and they fall through into the chamber. Gino attempts a combat roll but comes up without the shotgun, which has been jarred from his hands by the impact. Kyle lands awkwardly and is hopping to his feet as the Baron, snarling, snatched down a sabre from the wall and advances on him.
The villagers pile into the van, driven by Krist's friend Rudi, a thin, energetic man with rotten teeth. There is almost a party atmosphere among them, thinks Stuart, who is himself in no such cheery mood: he checks his inner pocket repeatedly for reassurance.
As the van bounces up the road Grace thinks she hears a faint clattering sound. She peers out of the window, upwards through the murky sky, and catches a glimpse of a small, dark helicopter as it enters the valley.
The Baron attempts a wild slash at Kyle, who fails completely to dodge out of the way and takes a hefty blow to the left arm. Although extraordinarily painful, he does not think it is broken, and he stands his ground, swinging a right hook at the surprised Baron. Gino snatches up the shotgun and fires the last cartridge at the Baron, but to his considerable surprise and dismay he misses, even though the range was virtually point blank. The Baron chuckles and, reaching into a pocket, pulls out a handful of black powder which he casts at Gino's face, temporarily blinding him. Kyle dives forwards and tackles the Baron round the knees, and they both crash to the floor. Kyle works his way up the Baron's body and, seizing him by the ears, repeatedly pounds his head against the floorboards until he stops struggling.
Gino wipes the remains of the powder from his streaming eyes and helps tie the Baron up. He too hears a faint clattering noise, then realizes it comes from the still-open mobile phone. Noting the number shown, he shuts the channel.
The clattering noise continues, although now it is fainter still and comes from outside the castle.
"Where to now?" says Kyle.
The van roars to a stop outside the great castle gates, which are firmly locked. "Don't worry," says Jeffrey confidently, "Gino and Kyle are opening the gates for us."
After a tense couple of minutes it becomes apparent that, if they were indeed attempting to do so, they have been distracted.
"I could ram the gates!" says Rudi excitedly.
"I don't think that's a very good idea," says Kris, tensely. The smell of petrol is making her feel uneasy.
Although the van is probably capably of bursting through the gates, Jeffrey severely doubts whether this van would be in good shape to drive away in later after such a manoeuvre.
"We should watch out for an ambush, as well," says Stuart. "I think we should try and capture one of the servants first, to find out where the Baron and the vampires are likely to be." He pats his canister of petrol. "And when we've finished - let's burn the place to the ground!"
There is a huge cheer from the villagers in the back at this suggestion.
Through the clouds can now be seen the shape of a small, black helicopter, descending towards the top of the castle's southern tower.
12.15 pm, Monday 3rd November 1997
Kyle and Gino: in the Baron's study
Everyone else: outside the main gates in Rudi's van
Gino: you take Odorf aside and question him some more. He gives you some information about the castle interior and defences, but does not seem to know very much. He tells you who in the village works for the Baron: none of them were on Krist's list, fortunately. He does not seem too convinced that you killing the Baron will do much good for his future.
Stuart: you write a long letter home, fearing that it may be your last words.